If you are looking for a vegetable that is chock full of nutrients and can be used in a variety of tasty applications, look no further than the zucchini! Zucchini was first brought to the United States in the 1920s by Italian immigrants. It’s in season typically from May to August, although it can be found at any time of the year at most supermarkets.
Zucchini ranges from yellow to dark green in color and looks much like cucumbers in appearance but have a much different texture. Not much is known about the differences between yellow and green zucchini varieties, but some say the yellow zucchini holds a slightly sweeter flavor than the green zucchini. Both tend to have a crunchy exterior, with the interior being a bit spongy. Due to its bland taste, zucchini can be added to all kinds of dishes for an extra boost of nutrition.
Zucchini contains numerous beneficial vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C and A, potassium, folate and fiber. It also has carbohydrates, which is the body’s main and preferred source of energy.
Vitamins A and C serve as strong antioxidants, which helps protect the body’s cells from damage. In addition, vitamin C plays an important role in immune function. The body needs potassium for normal cell function, as well, of which zucchini is a rich source. Believe it or not, one zucchini has more potassium than a whole banana! Additionally, the fiber in zucchini can reduce cholesterol and help relieve constipation. Folate is needed for cell division and to make DNA, which is important during times of growth such as in pregnancy, infancy and adolescence. All in all, zucchini is a nutrient-dense food that certainly deserves an occasional place on your plate.
Zucchini isn’t just popular for all of its health benefits either — it is extremely versatile with a subtle taste, soft covering and creamy white interior. It can be baked, sautéed, grilled, fried, peeled to form “pasta ribbons,” or can be munched on raw.
Choosing the best zucchini
At the supermarket or a farmer’s market, zucchini should be smooth and free of blemishes. If it has a slightly shriveled appearance, it is likely no longer at its freshest. And be careful not to confuse yellow zucchini with yellow squash. The difference between zucchini and squash is that zucchini has a straight cylinder shape, whereas squash has a tapered neck.
Zucchini can be stored uncut in the refrigerator for up to one week. Again, if the zucchini begins to have a shriveled appearance, it is likely beginning to go bad. Cut the zucchini once ready to use. To freeze it for later use, cut it into 1-inch chunks and place in a plastic bag before popping it in the freezer.
Desree Ortega-Furgeson is a former dietetic intern at Keene State College
Zucchini Bread Recipe
A nutritionally rich bread that’s perfect for National Zucchini Bread Day in April.
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 350 °F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add nuts and fold in. Bake in two standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Alternately, bake in five mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.